I have a good time debating theists on the subject of communism, the Soviet Union, and atheism. As regular visitors know, it’s a subject I have a formal background in, and have written about on this blog. Anti-atheists try to pin the atrocities committed by communist regimes on atheism, but I’ve demonstrated why that view is not in evidence, and they search in vain for an expert to support it. Their argument deflated, these anti-atheists try to resuscitate it with more bad argument and wholly ignorant and risible assertions. Case in point: Michael Eden of the “Start Thinking Right” blog.
Michael’s outlook is garden-variety fundamentalist Christian. With a background in divinity and philosophical theology, he’s better educated than the average Christian, but he exhibits the same immunity from evidence and reasoned thinking all too many of his fellow theists share. His hostility toward evolutionary theory exemplifies this tendency.
In a recent discussion on communism and atheism, Michael repeated the same canards we’ve come to expect from his type. When challenged to provide to cite scholars who support his view, Michael noted some Soviet dissidents like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Romanian evangelical Christian, and Rudolph Rummel. I was particularly grateful for the latter reference, with whom I’m already acquainted. Rummel is an actual scholar of totalitarianism, with a Ph.D. in Political Science (Northwestern University, 1963), and who writes on the deadly nexus of government and excessive power. Michael, who erroneously conflates communism with atheism, is unfortunately not as familiar with Rummel as I, for here is what he had to say specifically on the subject on atheism’s role in the last century’s murderous regimes:
Q: Is atheism the principal factor in democide, such as that committed by the “Big Three,” Stalin, Mao, and Hitler?
A: No. I find that religion or its lack – atheism – have hardly anything to do in general with wide-scale democide. The most important factor is totalitarian power. Whether a church, atheists, or agnostics have that power is incidental – it is having the power that is a condition of democide. Incidentally, some ideologies, such as communism, function psychologically and sociologically as though a religion. The only distinction is whether the subject is a god or a man, such as Marx, Lenin, Hirohito, Hitler, Mohammed, Kim Ill sung, Mao, etc.
For further reinforcement, I pointed out that Hannah Arendt, one of the most widely recognized experts on totalitarianism, mentions not a word about atheism in her seminole work, The Origins of Totalitarianism.
Decisively refuted in this way, reasonable individuals usually react by modifying their views, or at least become a tad skeptical. But most theists, in my experience, are not reasonable individuals. Michael’s response to the scholarly citations is instructive of their mindset. He wrote,
The fact that someone like Robert is able to find atheists and communists (or post-Marxist, or whatever these fools are calling themselves these days) – whether “scholars” or not – to say that atheism and communism are actually good things not responsible for anything awful really amounts to a gigantic mountain of crap.
I see. When those you cite are shown to disagree with you, suddenly they become “fools” and “atheists/communists” themselves (Arendt was a secular Jew and Michael continues to cite Rummel later!). Laughable! And notice the strawman thrown in for good measure. The opportunity to demonstrate the mental quackery of theists like Michael makes my time well spent.
Michael is reduced to extensively citing Solzhenitsyn, who – surprise! – was another anti-atheist Christian. Solzhenitsyn was also anti-west, anti-freedom, anti-democracy, and anti-semitic. He opposed letting non-Orthodox Christians like Michael into Russia. Nonetheless, Michael believes, “Solzhenitsyn is [sic] a greater scholar than you and all the moral idiots you cite as ‘experts’ times 1000.” (emphasis in the original)
Solzhenitsyn’s thesis, with which Michael wholeheartedly agrees, is
God is the only legitimate source of our human rights and freedoms, and the removal of God will ultimately remove the rights and freedoms, resulting in the Gulags.
Funny. Countries like Japan, whose population currently consists of just 1% of Christians, appears to lack any gulags, last I checked. Michael says that’s because our superior Judeo-Christian values were imposed on Japan after WWII. Constitutional democracy is a Judeo-Christian value now? Is sliced bread too?
The fact of the matter is, history simply doesn’t bear Solzhenitsyn out. Europe’s ever increasing political and social secularization has not resulted in a repeat of the communist experience, while its deeply Christian past resulted in the very tragedies a belief in God is supposed to make impossible. Michael further writes,
Atheism has a 100% track record. In every single society in which a government was officially atheist – EVERY SINGLE ONE – unimaginable atrocity, totalitarian nightmare, and the crushing of human dignity followed.
Governments can believe in God or not? Nonsense. Perhaps Michael refers instead to governments that proclaim the promotion of atheism as a state policy. What he neglects to mention is that these governments proclaim other policies as well. Policies like…nationalization, class warfare, suppression of “enemies of the state,” forced collectivization. Could they, possibly, have anything to do with social violence and atrocity? It’s doubtful Michael is even aware of such things. The historical myopia of the anti-atheists is breathtaking to behold at times.
What the anti-atheists fail to show is how atheism is the intellectual and philosophical seed of the ideologies and policies that end in atrocity. In contrast, I have shown how the Bible was a direct influence on the criticism of private property that formed the basis of most forms of communism, Marx’s and Engels’ included. It is thus little surprise that the earliest communists were religious believers. The famous Communist League, for example, was initially the League of the Just, a Christian communist organization. The anti-atheist’s argument rests purely on the debunked notion that without a belief in God (by which they mean their god), moral depravity is the inevitable result. What’s more, the argument isn’t even Biblical, since the Apostle Paul claims the moral law is written on every man’s heart (Romans 2:14-15), regardless of belief.
Michael thinks he’s got the killer argument when he writes,
And I note for at least the 3rd time that you STILL haven’t told me why Joseph Stalin – murderer of so many millions of people – was a ‘bad atheist’ for his acts.
Simple, Michael. When you can tell me why you’re a bad (or good) a-unicornist, I’ll tell you why Stalin was a bad (or good) atheist.